Members of the Class of 2023 should read  The Power of Stories: Susquehanna University Common Reading Anthology2019-2020 and complete a written assignment before arriving on campus (see instructions below). Here is a glimpse of some of what you will find in the anthology:

  • A report on The Players’ Tribune, a media outlet where athletes write their own coverage, introduced by Associate Professor Craig Stark, department head of communications
  • A science fiction story about climate change, introduced by Derek Martin, SU’s sustainability coordinator
  • The transcript of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s famous TED Talk, introduced by choreopoet and Assistant Professor Monica Prince
  • A study of “masks” worn by men at college, introduced by Samantha Proffitt, director of first year experience
  • A poem about “Truth,” introduced by creative writing major Aiyona Hayman ‘19
  • Personal essays by current SU students, introduced by their Perspectives instructor, Phil Winger, vice president and chief of staff of SU
  • A study of medical students learning to tell stories as part of their professional practice, introduced by Assistant Professor of Biology Pavithra Vivekanand

The anthology is distributed at Orientation for new students.

Important links

Common Reading Lecture

Keith E. Edwards, Ph.D.
Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019—7:30 p.m., Weber Chapel Auditorium

Edwards—scholar and educator on sexual violence prevention, men's identity, college men's issues, social justice education, and leadership—defines and explores the realities of sexual assault. Listeners will be taught to recognize our mis-education via cultural stories at the roots of sexual violence and leave the session with a vivid understanding of the issues and tangible ways to make change happen. Among his other published works, Edwards is the co-author of "Putting My Man Face On," published in The Power of Stories: Susquehanna University Common Reading Anthology 2019-2020.

Keith Edwards

Write your own story—a personal tale—about how any story or storyteller has affected your life. This assignment will be collected during orientation and will help introduce you to your instructor. Your story should be typed, double-spaced, and 2-3 pages long. Include some of the following details: where you are from, your family, your interests, circumstances or events that have influenced who you are, what matters to you personally or academically. We also ask that you draw connections between your story and several of the texts in The Power of Stories. Here are some examples of ways your own story might connect with various texts:

  1. Maybe you have been influenced by a particular superhero. You can connect to Robin Rosinberg’s analysis of superhero origin stories. Then think about “origins” and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s essay on influences, racism, and reputation.
  2. Is your story related to gender roles? Reread Keith Edwards and Susan Jones’s study of college men alongside the interview with poker star Annie Duke.
  3. Consider the meaning of “truth” in your story through the lens of Ben Okri and Emily Dickinson.
  4. Did a story influence you to want to study medicine or business? Look at the piece about medical students by Drs. Bezzubova, Shapiro, and Koons, and at Philipp Schönthaler’s analysis of the role of stories in business management.
  5. Do you think about who gets to tell the story? Start with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s thoughts about the danger of the single story and then move on to Amos Barshad’s piece about athletes choosing to tell their own story.

You do not need a works cited page, but you should be paraphrasing or quoting directly from the Common Reading Anthology, so please put last names of authors and page numbers in parentheses whenever referencing them in your story. Here's an example of how you might do this:

The story of my struggle with poverty definitely plays a role in who I am today, but as Adichie says, “to insist on only these negative stories is to flatten my experience and to overlook the many other stories that formed me” (Adichie 44).

Write in your own voice. Even though this is an academic assignment, your tone should be closer to a personal essay than a formal essay. We look forward to reading your thoughts on this theme, the power of stories.

Power of Stories by Karla Bohmbach, professor of religious studies

Humans, both individually and collectively, are story-making and story-telling creatures. Stories shape powerfully who we are, what we believe, and how we act—for both good and ill. Stories can be very short. For example, as individuals, we may tell ourselves, ‘I’m no good,’ ‘I can do anything I set out to do,’ or ‘I am so afraid of others finding out who I really am.’ But stories can also be long, complex, and durable. Think of the stories supportive of patriarchal privilege, evolution, American exceptionalism, globalization. In considering the power of stories, we will examine both the sources of stories and their impacts. We will explore what it means to question our stories, and we will analyze the difficulties and challenges involved in letting go of false and hurtful stories and embracing new and helpful ones.

We invite students, faculty, and staff to nominate texts to be included in Curiosity: Susquehanna University Common Reading Anthology 2020-2021. See the theme proposal by Dr. Alathea Jensen below.

To participate, go to Nominations for Common Reading Anthology on the Provost’s page on mySU. All types of material will be considered including book excerpts, articles, reviews, stories, essays, poems, plays and non-linguistic (visual, musical, etc.) texts.

Curiosity by Alathea Jenson, assistant professor of mathematics

“Learning starts with questions, and questions start with curiosity. When we were children, we were curious about everything, so much so that our parents lost patience with us at times. ‘Why?’ we wondered. Now many students sigh and roll their eyes when a question starts with ‘Why?’ What happened to that childlike spirit of curiosity? Albert Einstein said, ‘It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.’ He also said, ‘The important thing is to not stop questioning.’ A person without curiosity is like a mushroom, sitting in the dark and eating you-know-what. A person with curiosity is like a tree straining to reach the light. Just as saplings send their roots questing through the earth in search of sustenance and their branches grasping into the sky in search of light, curiosity motivates us to seek out knowledge, experiences, and perspectives that can sustain us for a lifetime.”

The tradition of selecting a year-long university theme began at Susquehanna University in 2003 with the purpose of creating opportunities for diverse members of the community to develop dialogue around a central idea or question. Past themes have included key words such as “resilience,” “conflict,” “technology,” “memory” and “water,” and have brought these ideas and more to the center of conversation and exploration at the university.

Faculty, staff, and students involved in the Common Reading Program create a new book each year that centers on the university theme that has been selected. Stories, poems, essays, reports, scholarly articles, and other texts appear alongside introductions written by members of the SU community. The anthology is used in a variety of ways during students’ first semester on campus, including during Welcome Week and in classrooms. Events, such as the annual Common Reading Lecture, bring authors of the texts to campus, and an online Reading and Teaching Guide offers additional means of interacting with the materials.

We hope the Common Reading Program will engage you in lively conversations and challenge you to think critically. It is an introduction to life in a community of learners, where we are all participate in discussion and reflection on texts and ideas. We invite you to explore the various theme-based events and activities that occur throughout the academic year.


Theme: Resilience

Speakers: Holly Rogers, founder of the Center for Koru Mindfulness® and psychiatrist at Duke University

Derrick Brooms, associate professor of sociology and Africana studies at the University of Cincinnati and author of Black Men Emerging

Martín Espada, poet, editor, essayist and translator and professor of English at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, author of Alabanza: New and Selected Poems


Theme: Conflict
Speaker: Hanna Rosin, journalist and co-host of NPR's Invisibilia


Theme: Passion
Speaker: Natalie Zemon Davis, author of A Passion for History and professor of history at the University of Toronto


Theme: Adventure
Speaker: Edwidge Danticat, author of Krik? Krak!


Theme: Humor
Speaker: John Morreal, author of Humor Works


Theme: Technology in our Lives
Speaker: Brian Christian, author of The Most Human Human


Theme: Freedom and Responsibility
Speaker: Lori Andrews, author of I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did: Social Networks and the Death of Privacy


Theme: Fear
Speaker: David Ropeik, author of How Risky Is It, Really? Why Our Fears Don't Always Match the Facts


Theme: A Sustainable Future
Speaker: Chris Uhl, author of Developing Ecological Consciousness: Path to a Sustainable World


Theme: What does it mean to be educated?
Speaker: AJ Jacobs, author of A Year of Living Biblically


Theme: Memory
Speaker: Ishmael Beah, author of A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier


Theme: Water
Speaker: Fred Pearce, author of When the Rivers Run Dry: Water - the Defining Crisis of the Twenty-First Century


Theme: On the Fringes
Speaker: Eric Schlosser, author of Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market